Heartland - Petra's Scotland pages

Famous suffragettes

Millicent Fawcett (1847 - 1929)
Millicent FawcettBorn Millicent Garret in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, she was married (1867) to Henry Fawcett (1833–1884, a blind British statesman and economist, who also campaigned for women’s suffrage).

The focus of her work was to improve women’s opportunities for higher education. In 1871 she co-founded Newnham College, Cambridge.

In 1897 Millicent Fawcett founded the "National Union of Women's Suffrage", which was renamed in her honour 1953 to the Fawcett Society and is still working and fighting for equality between men and women at work, in the home and in public life.

Millicent Fawcett was a tireless campaigner for women’s rights, although her fight was quite moderate. She preferred patience and logical arguments to the militant methods of her successors. She argued, that if women had to obey the laws the parliament made, then they should be part of the process of making those laws and that women should have the same rights as men since they had to pay the same taxes as men.....

In 1924 she was made a Dame of the British Empire.
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 - 1928)
Emmeline PankhurstBorn Emmeline Goulden in ManchesterEngland to abolitionist parents, she was married (1879) to Dr. Richard Marsden Pankhurst (a lawyer, comitted socialist, who was already a supporter of the women's suffrage movement, and had been the author of the Married Women's Property Acts of 1870 and 1882).

Emmeline Pankhurst is probably the most famous figure in the women’s suffragist movement.

In 1889, Mrs Pankhurst co-founded the "Women's Franchise League", but her campaign was interrupted by her husband's death in 1898. In 1894 the league won the right for married women to vote in elections for local offices.

Disappointed about the slow progression in women’s suffrage, she – together with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia - 1903 founded her own movement, the "Women’s Social and Political Union" (WSPU) in Manchester, an organisation most famous for its militancy.

The members of her movement were frequently arrested, using spectacular militant means to further their cause.

Emmeline Pankhurst herself was imprisoned several times. In 1912 she went on a hunger strike and was soon released from jail. 1913 she was again arrested and released once more after a hunger strike. This procedure repeated itself 12 times in the following 12 months according to the newly passed “Cat and Mouse Act” (Prisoners, Temporary Discharge for Health Act) 1913.

At the beginning of World War I, 1914, the government released all suffragist prisoners and Emmeline Pankhurst called off the suffrage campaign to support the war effort. During the war Mrs. Pankhurst continued her campaign in Canada, the U.S.A. and Russia.

She returned to England in 1926.

Two years later she was chosen as a Conservative candidate for an East London seat but died before the election to Parliament took place.

At least she lived to see the release of the “Representation of the People Act”, establishing voting equality for men and women in 1928.

A statue in her memory stands at Westminster.

The home of the Pankhurst family in Manchester has now turned into a museum, the Pankhurst Centre.

- My Own Story (1914) autobiography by Emmeline Pankhurst
- E.S. Pankhurst (1936) biography by Sylvia Pankhurst

Christabel Pankhurst (1880 - 1958)
Christabel PankhurstBorn in Manchester, Emmeline Pankhurst’s oldest daughter Christabel was also a suffragist. In 1906 she obtained a law degree from the university of Manchester.
After World War I she left England and moved to the USA, where she became an evangelist.

In 1936 Christabel Pankhurst was made a Dame of the British Empire.
Sylvia Pankhurst (1882 - 1960)
Sylvia PankhurstBorn in Manchester, Emmeline Pankhurst’s youngest daughter, Sylvia Pankhurst, started to work full-time with the WSPU in 1906. In opposite to her mother and sister Christabel, Sylvia retained her interest in the labour movement, anti-fascism and anti-colonialism. She didn’t agree to the WSPU’s promotion of arson attacks and left the group in 1912 to set up the "East London Federation of Suffragettes" (ELFS), which changed its name to the "Workers’ Socialist Federation".

Sylvia Pankhurst founded the newspaper “Women’s Dreadnought” which first appeared on International Women’s Day on 8th of March 1914. In 1917 the name was changed to “Workers’ Dreadnought”.

Sylvia was an important figure in the communist movement at the time and attended meetings of the International in Russia and Amsterdam and also meetings of the Italian Socialist Party. She argued with Lenin and was supportive of left communists such as Amadeo Bordiga and Anton Pannekoek.

Sylvia Pankhurst was opposing marriage as an institution and defending unmarried mothers and stated her theories by bearing an illegitimate son in 1927.

In 1956 she moved to Addis Ababa and was active in the cause of Ethiopian independence.

Sylvia Pankhurst died 1960 and was buried in Addis Ababa.

Dr. Elsie Inglis (1864 - 1917)

Dr. Elsie InglisBorn in India, her parents considered the education of a daughter as important as that of a son. She trained at the “Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women” and then at the University of Glasgow.

While working in London she was appalled by the poor standard of care of female patients.

In 1894 she returned to Edinburgh and set up a medical practice and opened a maternity hospital as well as a midwifery resource centre for the poor. The latter became the Elsie Inglis Memorial Hospital.

In 1906 she became politically active and founded the Scottish Women’s Suffragette Federation.

At the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 Dr. Inglis suggested the creation of women's medical units on the Western Front but the British government have turned down the offer of her services. Nevertheless the French government gladly accepted her offer and she established a hospital fully staffed by women for use by the French government (Abbaye de Royaumont hospital with about 200 beds) in 1914. A second hospital was to follow in 1917.

Her untiring efforts during World War I brought her fame and Winston Churchill said about her and her colleagues “they will shine in history”. Her Suffragette Federation sent teams to France, Salonica, Russia and Serbia, where she helped reducing typhus and other epidemics by improving hygiene. In 1917 she was suffering from cancer and died after returning to Newcastle upon Tyne.

History Learning site

search this site: